Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review : "All's Fair In Love And Cupcakes"

All's Fair in Love and CupcakesAll's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Oh, for Christ's sake. Kat works at a cupcake bakery in Bayou Bend, Louisiana, and yearns to breathe free, or make more interesting cupcakes at least. Her long-time bestie is Lucas, the local high school football coach. There's just this one thing...they've each gone sweet on the other, but are scared to come clean for fear of blowing up the friendship and ending up with nothing. Okay. I get that, at least to begin with. In fact, this novel is as sweet and easy as a cupcake at the start. Even the cover art is appealing. What could go wrong?

The two of them like to watch a Food Network reality show called Cupcake Combat. Sounds familiar, yeah? (Just go with it.) Lucas gets the brainstorm to secretly send in an application for Kat to be on the show, and wouldn't ya know, she's accepted. I'll tell you what she's won, or *will* win if she defeats these other six baking teams: she wins a year's internship at a prestigious New York bakery. But she needs an assistant, so coach dons an apron and off they go to L.A.

So far so good, right? The first flashing neon sign I encountered, saying "Turn back!" appeared around page 125 or so, when a couple of clumsily inserted religious references got wedged in. By about the third one, I investigated the small print on the back cover, and sure enough: FICTION/CHRISTIAN/ROMANCE. From that point on, in an evident effort to be able to market this turkey to a niche audience, the narrative keeps hitting these defects in the track as it chugs along. ("Should I get strawberry, or chocolate? WWJD?")

But still, the religious stuff wasn't any heavier than vanilla icing, and was only a mild annoyance, mostly because it didn't flow. What turned this book into a torture device worthy of Torquemada was the way these two grown people danced around each other for 300 pages. Want to read about 50 pages of Lucas wringing his hands like an old woman, worrying whether he should tell Kat how he feels? Want to watch him jump-back-jack as if she were electrified, every time they might actually touch? Want to slog through 150 pages of Kat's insecurities and misinterpretations and general whiney baby nonsense? ("He gave me a million dollars, a ring, and his autographed Knute Rockne football....he's obviously trying to get rid of me! Boo hoooooo....")

Really, this woman--who I actually liked at first--must be brain damaged or have been recently poleaxed with a railroad tie or something, because the reader and everybody else in the western world will figure out that coach digs her long before she ever does. And as for coach, he dithers around and analyzes more than a lesbian or a 12 year old boy. I am no fan of vulgarity, but I began to long for Burgess Meredith's character from Grumpy Old Men to show up and tell Lucas, "Ya mount the woman, son!" Seriously, this football coach must have had a horse riding accident in his youth or been hit in the grapes with a bowling ball at some point, because he just will NOT make a move, and is actually horrified when a buddy asks if he slept with Kat. "NO!" he responds, as if he'd been accused of selling crack to kittens. There's Christianity, my dears, and then there's idiocy. One is reminded of the Newsboys lyric "Do you really want a love that waits its turn?" Because that's what Lucas does, for 300 pages, agonizing like a palsied jellyfish the whole while.

Oh, eventually--like, 3 pages from the end--they actually throw all caution to the wind and actually talk to each other. (Weren't they supposed to have started as best friends? Did they not talk before? Or was their bond based on collecting American Girl dolls or something?) Oh, Kat! Oh, Lucas! Oh muh gawd, it's about time y'all. In addition, the remaining loose plot threads resolve themselves in the very manner that readers had already figured they would by page 12. Oh, and Kat's dismissive relatives do an about-face and shower her with love, because Jesus, I guess. Whee. NOT recommended.



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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Figure 8's On A Frozen Pond

He told me they were hiding, he and his wife and son,
when the air ripped, his eardrums ruptured and by the time he got to his feet,
his house was gone and he wasn't married anymore.

I set his broken arm, treated his gashed forehead. 
I asked him his name, but I don't think he answered.
His son is here, as are so many. Some will survive and wander off.

I was trained as a nurse in a hospital in France, with a job promise
back home in Quebec. I am multi-lingual:
I can say "You're going to die," in seven languages.

I am slight. My movements are deliberate.
I was never any help in our backyard hockey games, growing up. 
Now, I am as healthy as a chambered bullet.

I thought he was blind for a minute, but he was only in shock.
Once, I saw a lightning-struck tree next to a frozen pond where I was skating. 
I put my arms out. Ta da. I will save this guy's arm, stop his head from bleeding.

You can see the tracers. All this death, it gets into your head,
the blood forever under my bitten nails.
Things bodies were never intended to withstand come from the air,
sent by strangers, wiping heartbeats from the face of the earth.

"Would you like to see your son?" I don't add, "while there's still time."
He is ambulatory and triple-oriented. He is blown up, within himself.
We pick our way around the cots, shelves, and treatment stations.

A tv is on, powered by generator. We pass by it.
Someone is talking about the war. My patient can't hear a word.
Here is his boy. I smile at him out of old habit, gesture at a box where he can sit.

I have been here six months. These people, they shiver and cough,
hemorrhage from catastrophic wounds, ask for water, go still.
I will go back to Canada in January, empty and silent,

Healthy as a chambered round.
_______

For Karin's "A Glance At Narrative" challenge at Real Toads.


 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Grackles

"Why?" she asked,
holding a headless sparrow
that the grackles had killed.

The sun was out,
but could as easily not have been.
I could have been someplace else.
She could have never been born.

Here, it is like
stepping off of the unfurled tongue of a devil.
For hell, it's cold.
People work here, collect checks like anybody else.

Once, she was spinning.
I caught her in my arms.
It could have been someone else,
but that day, the sun was out.
That day, the sparrows were thick around the backyard feeder.

At a certain age, she started locking
her bedroom door. There I'd stand, blind in the hallway,
holding laundry warm from the dryer against my arms.
Here, they let you look, their faces a question.

His eye is on the sparrow, so they say.
I was someplace else, collecting a check like anybody would.
I came rushing through the front doors,
from a window to a hallway to an elevator, one level down.

Someone caught her in their arms.
Now she's here, oh Jesus.
Oh God oh sweet Jesus, yes that's her.
My knees buckled, the floor came up. It could as easily have been someone else.

"Give her some water," someone said.
"Is her husband on his way?" 
Oh oh oh oh no no no no.

Every day of her life has run through
every day of mine. Once, she was spinning,
dancing to some song in the living room. 
She was smiling. Her arms might have been wings.
_______

For the Real Toads mini-challenge. Write about a building. I wrote about a morgue.
 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Kicked

So I thought: I'm gonna agitate the gravel,
make like a banana and peel.
I musta had static in the attic;
Daddy's gonna flip when he sees what I done to the Roadmaster.

Oh geez, my leg's stuck under all that mess of metal--
I guess I'll have to leave it and come back or something. 
Not leaving my bags, though, oh hell naw.
Oomf, gawd they weigh a ton.

This sweater is cashmere, used to be yellow, now look at it.
And my head keeps boinging over to one side--
I must look like a real dope.
Mom's gonna have a cow. Whudja do to ya hair? Lookit ya clothes!

Maybe I should go knock on some square's door.
Hi, I'm dead, can I use your phone?
I gotta get somebody to come pick me up.
First ghost on the right! Oh girl, don't start actin' like a nosebleed.

So I wonder if Mom'll have me stuffed into a real churchy get-up
and have some Clyde get up there and say, yeah, she was an angel girl,
everybody loved her, life's gonna be a drag now.
Then cheesy organ music and shufflin' feet and dropped programs and stuff.

I wonder if it'll rain at the cemetery like it always does in the pictures?
My ankle biter little sis'll pitch a rose down on my coffin,
and crank crank crank down I'll go, like a big fat flower bulb.
In the spring maybe I'll pop up again, Ta da! Queen For A Day, what'd I win?

Johnny might write some retarded song about me, sit strummin'
with a tear in his eye, get a new girlfriend in about five minutes, if that.
My social life is over. At school I'll just be The Dead Car Wreck Girl.
Daddy's gonna blow his stack, Mom's gonna have kittens.
 
*sigh* Guess I'll start walking. Er, hopping. I really should've worn flats.
________

for my Fireblossom Friday challenge at Real Toads: Bang, You're Dead.




 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wild Memories

Wild memories!
Scat sermons!
July under a Full Buck Moon!

Police at the PTA!
Sunday gun running!
Milkmen amok in the Monday dawn! 

Wild libraries!
Potluck Jezebels!
Crash test dummies up for mayor in the Fall.
________ 

for fragile, natural, wild with Magaly at Real Toads. 



The phony pulp novel covers are from BOOKTRYST.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Lock

When you put the lock on my tongue,
that was some medieval dentistry;
performed before I knew
about informed consent, 
lawyers, 
mental disorders,
and all the usual childhood stuff.

So, I became a telepath,
screwing with the antenna tv, broadcasting my thoughts,
burning the toast,
giving the garage door St. Vitus Dance,
and dispatching police and fire to our house with my brother's scanner.

Our neighbor three doors down
was the Chief of Police,
and he took me aside with the customary rubber hose.
The lock on my tongue precluded objection or outcry
and besides, I thought it was all normal
how he grunted as he swung,
and then holstered his gun in his face and blew his brains out.
I'll never tell.

You have three choices, you said,
of what to be in life:
a nurse, a secretary, or a hotel maid.
That's when I panicked and started the electric mixer with my mind.
What about hooker, homicide, hag, harridan?
What about paramour, prostitute, pill-popper, parasite?
Who knew I could make the kabob skewers fly through the air like that? 

I stood mute during my trial. 
Let your lawyer do the talking, they told me, 
just as I learned to do at your knee.
Still, I couldn't restrain my nervous habit of jangling the lock on my tongue
during dull moments
like summation and sentencing.
Such a quiet girl, said the warden.
You don't see girls like her very often anymore,
especially doing a quarter at this facility.

It's been years, now.
The other women call me Metal Mouth
and ask if the cat's got my tongue.
They don't know that I learned how to pick the lock last week--
they only know that the guards are having trouble
with the system that seals the doors,
and that the toilets flush by themselves all night
without even anyone's head being shoved into them.

Wait til I can talk, mama.
You always wanted to know what I could have been thinking of--
well, that was it.
Now I'm gonna use my words,
my hour come round at last:
Look, ma! Top of the world, 
and all that silence packed behind one long gorgeous scream. 
______


 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Raucous Bird

I've got a million morning dreams, 
but in the way of casual cruelty,
despite trying to tuck them to me like a marked book--
they scatter and leave no sign or scent to help me look
for my lost dreams.

I've got a million folded paper notes
floated on the morning pond, bent carefully into boats--
but in the way of casual cruelty,
they love a water lily more than me
and do not return.

I've got a million songs that line my throat,
pin feather sharp, short-lived, half-grown,
but in the way of casual cruelty,
my cricket legs won't carry me to that place I've dreamt of passingly
where I'm a raucous bird. 
_______

for Get Listed at Real Toads.

 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Graduate Studies

She kissed me, but she 
did it symbolically,
as part of her final exam with Professor Goodbar,
known far and wide 
for his success with electricity, molasses, and girls who wear glasses. 

She attached a papier-mache head to a wheel, and 
turned a crank;
never did a lump of dailies and glue
express such dumbstruck speechless desire for me.
It came around, leaned in by means of a flexible metal vetebra,
and laid one on me.

Oh the hours
we had spent
deposited across her bed like rag dolls,
discussing emotional boundaries,
primitive impulses among Thai villagers,
and deflecting each other's endearments and tender fumblings.

This is when something went wrong.
Just as my Inner Wanton was awakened
by the kiss of her oscillating manufactured surrogate,
in walked Professor Goodbar and oh,
the smile she gave him.
Oh the sugared data.

There's a limit, you know,
to what a girl can take, 
even in the name of course completion.
I realized I had been a dupe,
a foil,
a representation
of fetish and fantasy, of foolery and fuck-headedness,
trotted out like a show pony with a little engine hidden in its tossing head.

Well.

For months, 
we had learned symbology, transference, 
normal and abnormal expression, data collection and interpretation.
But when I brained the Professor with my darling's papier-mache double,
THAT was real and he fell face first into her lap
like unexpected erratum,
mumbling some other woman's name
and it felt good, yes so good, to walk out of there and become a 

guitar shredder or a softball pitcher instead.  
________

For Play it Again, Toads and Hedgewitch's Get Listed challenge.